Glendale Local History Society opened their 2013-14 season with an illustrated talk given by John Nolan of Northern Counties Archaeological Services on “The Barmoor Castle and Estate”.
Barmoor has a rich and varied history with evidence of human occupation going back five thousand years. Flints from the Mesolithic era have been found along with Roman pottery and the remains of an Iron Age settlement. Barmoor’s proximity to the Roman road - the Devil’s Causeway – ensured that it became an important staging post on the journey north. It is probable that roman legions camped there and in the early 14th century Barmoor played host to Edward the second and his army when on the way north to harry the Scots. The Earl of Surrey’s army camped there the night before the battle of Flodden. Field walkers and metal detectors have found artefacts, principally coins and pottery shards, which relate to these events.
Barmoor was the medieval home of the Muschamp family and was in their ownership for some three centuries. The Muschamps were Wardens of the Marches and were prominent in Border Affairs. Their fortunes varied. In 1550 the castle was described as “Cast down and not repaired.” A George Muschamp did some restoration in the late 16th century but a hundred years later ownership had passed to the Carr family from Etal the Muschamps having become impoverished and fallen out of favour because they supported the wrong side in the Civil War. In the 18th and 19th centuries some famous names – Boscawen, Sitwell – became associated with Barmoor as owners of the estate and agricultural improvers. Again fortunes went up and down with one of the owners being undone because of too great an involvement with horseracing! In the 19th century the castle was given a gothic makeover following plans drawn up by the Edinburgh architect John Paterson. The walls were enlarged and the massive gate tower – arguably the castle’s most dramatic feature today – added. The work was completed in 1892 but not all Paterson’s plans were brought to fruition because of lack of funds. After a brief flowering in the early 20th century as an Edwardian country mansion the dreaded dry rot began its ravages and by the 1950s Barmoor was once again “Much cast down”.
Barmoor is now a chalet and caravan park. The owners actively promote and encourage archaeological and historical investigation of the castle and grounds. This, our speaker reminded us, is a worthwhile project because not only does Barmoor encompass a social history of a great Northumberland estate but in a wider context provides a continuum of Northumbrian history from earliest times to the present day.